Shannen Doherty on How Her Cancer Battle Changed Her Marriage: “My Perception of Sexy Has Changed”

shannon doherty

After announcing that she was in remission in 2017, Shannen Doherty was hopeful that her two-year-long battle with breast cancer was over. But just last week, the “Beverly Hills 90210” star shared the devastating news that she’s silently been fighting stage 4 breast cancer for nearly a year.

“It’s going to come out in a matter of days or a week that I have stage 4,” Doherty said in an emotional interview with ABC’s ‘Good Morning America.’ “So my cancer came back and that’s why I’m here.”

Though she’s been pretty public about her diagnosis since the beginning, the reality that the cancer is back has still not hit the 48-year-old actress.

“I don’t think that I’ve processed it,” explained Doherty. “It’s a bitter pill to swallow in a lot of ways. I definitely have days where I say, ‘Why me?’ And then I go, ‘Well why not me? Who else? Who else beside me deserves this?’ None of us do. I would say that my first reaction is always concern about how am I going to tell my mom, my husband.”

Thankfully, Doherty’s husband, photographer Kurt Iswarienko, has been more than supportive throughout her arduous journey. In fact, it’s strengthened their marriage in ways she never could have imagined.

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In what she now has called a ‘terrible move’ on her part, Doherty shared her initial 2015 diagnosis with Iswarienko over the phone.

Waiting in the driveway for his wife to get home, Iswarienko said, “We are going to get through this. You are going to be OK. We are going to get through this, you’re strong, and you’re powerful, and you’re not going anywhere.”

“You have so much to do in your life,” the encouraging hubby added. “We are going to get through it as a family.”

Four years later, the photographer has remained just as passionate of an advocate for Doherty.

He also finds her resilience, courage, and strength sexier than fleeting external beauty could ever be.

The actress told PEOPLE that cancer “solidified” their relationship, adding that the couple now has a “much deeper appreciation for each other.”

Their relationship that has been beautifully fortified by fire is reminiscent of the classic movie “A Walk to Remember,” or Jeremy Camp’s upcoming film “I Still Believe,” in which the singer’s wife brings her brutal cancer battle to the big screen on March 13, 2020.

“It’s not that our marriage wasn’t good before,” explained Doherty. “But we were definitely going through some growing pains. We would lock horns on things, and instead of resolving it, we wouldn’t speak for a couple of days.”

But now, they refuse to go to bed angry at each other. In fact, she shared that the “last time [they] had an argument was pre-cancer.”

For Shannen Doherty, her hard-fought battle with cancer has helped redefine more than just her husband’s idea of “sexy.” She now also has more grace for herself, as well as the physical changes that breast cancer has dragged her through.

“My perception of sexy has changed,” she said. “For me now, sexy is strength. Sexy is vulnerability. Sexy is compassion. Sexy is grace.”

Kelsey Straeter
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Kelsey is an editor at Outreach. She’s passionate about fear fighting, freedom writing, and the pursuit of excellence in the name of crucifying perfectionism. Glitter is her favorite color, 2nd only to pink, and 3rd only to pink glitter.